The Buffalo Bills won their second consecutive game of the 2018 season by defeating the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21. Buffalo withstood a strong Jacksonville rushing attack in earning the victory.
In a game where there were plenty of solid performances overall, our five players to watch heading into the week all managed to stand out in some regard. Here is how our watch list fared in Sunday’s victory.
QB Josh Allen
Buffalo’s rookie started the game blazing hot, completing 4 of his first 5 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. Most of that yardage came on a picture-perfect deep ball to fellow rookie Robert Foster. That Allen finished the game 8-of-19 for 160 yards and that one touchdown may seem a bit disappointing, but with numerous penalties nullifying good throws, his passing line looks much worse than it could have. The rookie also showed off his excellent mobility, running 13 times for 99 yards (2 of those “carries” came out of the victory formation, which is why he did not officially break the century mark rushing). Allen wasn’t perfect, and he made a few throws that he certainly would like to have back (a ground ball he threw to Isaiah McKenzie on a quick screen stands out), but the rookie was poised throughout the day, and he did enough to help his team win. He definitely looked more comfortable in the pocket than he did prior to his elbow injury. One thing I’ll be looking for as the year continues is whether Allen can become more confident and consistent passing the ball while under duress. Too often, it seems that he relies on his rushing ability when the play begins to break down around him. While he has shown the ability to stand in and take a shot while delivering a good throw (see the long ball to Foster and another to Kelvin Benjamin), I want him to keep his eyes downfield as pressure comes, which should allow him to deliver daggers behind blitzes. It’s starting to happen, however, and I can’t wait to watch the young man continue to progress.
RB LeSean McCoy
McCoy was not nearly as good as he was in Buffalo’s last game against the New York Jets, although he did flash some of his signature quickness at times. Shady carried 17 times for only 46 yards, a 2.7 yards per carry average. Jacksonville did a good job containing him, but when he was decisive in hitting holes, he was able to gain decent yardage. What the Jaguars did well was make him hesitate, and when he searched for break-away lanes, their speedy defenders were able to swarm him. McCoy was only able to catch one pass, a screen early in the game, for a 7-yard gain.
WR/KR/PR Isaiah McKenzie
Buffalo’s newest toy on offense had another good day. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll clearly thinks that McKenzie has a future with the team, as the speedster has played on more than half of the team’s offensive snaps in each of his two games with the squad. He was targeted three times in the passing game officially (a first-down catch he made towards the end of the first half was nullified by a penalty), hauling in 2 of them for 11 yards. He also ran twice for 8 yards, including the game’s first touchdown. As a returner, he had 41 yards returning kicks and 13 more yards returning punts. The youth movement at wide receiver is in full swing, and McKenzie is a huge part of it.
TE Jason Croom
Buffalo’s young tight end started his second straight game in place of the injured Charles Clay, and he tied for the team lead in receptions on the day. Okay, he only caught 2 passes for 16 yards, but it sounds much more positive to say that he led the squad in catches, right? Croom’s biggest catch was an 11-yard reception in the red zone on the team’s first touchdown drive. His athleticism and raw ability are beginning to translate into on-field success, and he looks to be a part of the future in Buffalo.
DE Jerry Hughes
Buffalo’s defensive line was like a Charles Dickens novel: it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. For a stretch in the second quarter, Buffalo could not stop anyone who ran the ball for Jacksonville, and overall, the numbers were ugly. The Jags rushed for 226 yards as a team; however, much of it was either right up the middle or to the offensive right side, opposite Hughes. Buffalo’s best pass rusher made his presence felt throughout the day, totaling 3 quarterback hits, half a sack, and 2 tackles overall. While it was Kyle Williams who was able to sack Blake Bortles most, the stunts he ran with Hughes were a big part of the reason those sacks happened. Hughes is quietly putting together a very good season, with 6 sacks and 7 run stuffs overall.